How Obama Will Welcome a President He Spied On
Dilma Rousseff shouldn't expect an apology with U.S. efforts to "move forward."
— -- When Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff learned in 2013 that the National Security Agency was listening in on her phone calls and reading her emails, she was none too pleased.
She canceled a long-planned state visit to the United States and used an address at the United Nations General Assembly to blast the United States for what she called a “totally unacceptable” violation of her country’s sovereignty and accused the United States of breaking international law.
But tonight, over two years later, Rousseff will be wined and dined by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during a private “working dinner” at the White House. It’s part of a two-day fence-mending trip and an opportunity for the two presidents to move beyond what the White House acknowledges as a “turbulent patch” between the Western hemisphere’s two largest economies.
Earlier in the day, the president gave Rousseff a tour of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, pointing out various inscriptions of King's writings and speeches as they walked along the giant stone monument.
The two leaders will participate Tuesday in a series of formal meetings and also hold a joint news conference.
Obama has found himself in this predicament often in the past two years as he has tried to restore relationships with key allies angry over the NSA surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. The president has repaired his relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel with meetings, phone calls and even a beer after she expressed outrage about the NSA spying on her cellphone conversations.
Just last week, Obama called French President Francois Hollande to patch their relationship following reports the United States spied on him and his two predecessors. In the phone call, the president reiterated a commitment that the United States is “not targeting and will not target the communications of the French president.”
This will be the second meeting for Obama and Rousseff since the NSA spying revelations in 2013. They previously met on the sidelines of the Summit of Americas in Panama in April.
But even as the two leaders attempt to move beyond the spying that damaged their relationship, the White House won’t say whether Obama will formally apologize to Rousseff.
“We have not made it a practice to issue apologies related to our surveillance activities,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said during a conference call with reporters to preview Rousseff’s visit last week. “What the president has done is make changes based on our very thorough review of programs.”
Rousseff’s visit to the White House “signals the fact that we are moving forward in terms of our positive relationship” and will allow the two leaders to move forward on a number of “stalled” areas, Rhodes said.
The White House said the two leaders will discuss a wide range of topics, from climate change to trade, as well as defense and international cooperation. The two leaders will also discuss Cuba and Venezuela.